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Folktronic Review

by Charles Spano

In 1952, anthropologist/ethnomusicologist/filmmaker/collector of curiosities/polymath Harry Smith released his Anthology of American Folk Music on Folkways. The brilliance of the six LP collection of pre-WWII music was in Harry Smith's ability to see connections between dark ballads, rollicking social music, and geographically disparate songs. His collection defined the music in the context of American culture and created a dramatically novel worldview.

Scottish-born eccentric Nick Currie, aka Momus, is a Harry Smith for the age of information. Not only does he continue to put out wonderfully odd albums, but he has a newspaper column of cultural criticism, is a rabid Japanophile and pop culture addict, a magazine junkie, uses his website to address whatever touches his fancy, and comments on everything from art to history to literature to philosophy to mass media. Momus always attaches a character or concept to his albums, and Folktronic is his anthology of fake folk. It takes a warped mind to connect mountain music and electronica, but this is just the kind of thing that has gained Momus his cult following. All the humor, jesting, parody, and sexual cruelty that we've come to love him for are here. Songs like "Finnegan the Folk Hero" pop and bleep as digital technology meets tomorrow's shanties. "Little Apples" is about science, Momus' G4 computer, and his digital camera. "The Penis Song" is a brave new ballad that tells the hapless tale of the hero's meeting with rock groupie turned artist, Cynthia Plaster Caster. You must hear it to believe it. Though The Little Red Songbook and Stars Forever would be better introductions to the wonderful world of baroque pop, Folktronic is a must-have for Momus fanatics. The artist formerly known as Maoist Intellectual, Futuristic Vaudevillian, and Audio Portraitist always seems to do something new and unexpected, and this time the space-age folkie molds traditional ballads and Appalachian ditties out of plastic and silicon.

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